By Derek Lakin
Noir detectives, ones who faithfully bask in their imperfections, have always captivated me.
To me, they were perfect examples of enlightenment. Someone who acknowledged, nay, embraced, their weaknesses, but was also compelled by nobility to re-balance the scales, righting the wrongs committed against others: falling on swords during the day, poisoning their self-inflicted wounds each night.
Embraced so fully, I had no choice but to adore these tortured, yin-yang heroes.
I imagined myself riding alongside as they fulfilled their modus operandi, day in and day out. In a fake world, they bravely kept it real, confidently bucking the status quo. I yearned to verse myself in their brilliance; share in their despair; exist simultaneously as myself and them; learn from the minds that thought them into existence.
For decades, envisioning myself in this light felt comfortable, natural—a place where I could travel and rekindle my flame, a sangha where balance was achieved, a temple where my spirits recovered, purposes re-energized, fires quenched.
Home. A constructed truth I defended at any cost.
Years warring depression, a short-lived flirt with alcoholism, eventually forced me, kicking and screaming, to hone my mindfulness and compassion. Survival tools, if ever.
Fortified by the right perspective, my home’s walls crumbled, revealing this torturous mindset for what it was: addiction. The high of reward, the low of penitence, a never-ending cycle of indebtedness to sinfulness, disguised as sackcloth and ashes.
This, my detective friend, is anything but noble. It’s toxicity, an ego-woven hair shirt.
If I could pass along one piece of advice, a single tool, to my younger, more naive self; the new father of two, trying desperately to figure out who I was and why I was so damn unhappy; the person always seeking to salve my inside by ingesting pestilence from outside, it’s this:
Reconciliation hinges on honoring—not indulging.
Meditating during the day and sneaking cigarettes at night isn’t a path to healing. Even if we bike 100 miles over the weekend, eating nothing but fast food and working at a job where we feel worthless will not leave us balanced and fulfilled.
Avoiding these things is the start, though.
Once we’ve laid a foundation, we must continually honor the moments in between. No negative self-talk. Smile at strangers. Offer, and seek, support. Thankfully bow to the universe whenever the urge strikes. Tell your spouse and kids how wonderful they are until they’re annoyed.
We can’t travel back in time, however, we can use this wisdom to compassionately plant seeds of mindfulness in every person who crosses our paths. Encourage in them unflinching critique—an exercise loathed by the ego—to help identify toxic mentalities that can lead to destructive addiction cycles.
Help those who seek, find. Inspire in them the desire to seek a simple, but immensely difficult, perspective shift, one that’s authentic, lasting.
After all, it takes bravery to seek awakening, to become our own ego detective, willfully delving into the shadows of our psyches, navigating with only the faintest light. It also requires an initial pivot in the right direction. Someone who can gently, compassionately, and wisely remind us there’s a better path, one lush with meaning and fulfillment.
Gifting others with the wisdom that when they eventually encounter their demons, these formidable figures, they have the capacity—the duty—to remain courageous, approach compassionately, hug tightly, and wrap them in understanding.
Then, after they’ve established fertile ground of their own, they can pay it forward, gifting seeds of mindfulness to others.
Derek Lakin has worked as a freelance copywriter for more than a decade, and is the founder of TreadBikely, where he explores the intersection of bicycling and mindfulness.
Editor: Alicia Wozniak
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